246 toothpicks … and counting
Next week, things will look a little different when our users log into Chartbeat. We’re adding two new features to the Real-Time Dashboard: a configurable redesign of Top Pages, and the addition of pageviews and uniques as running totals for a look at the day so far. We can’t wait to hear how Chartbeat users around the world make use of them.
Both features were carefully designed in collaboration with our customers, who initially guided us to the idea and then partnered with us at every step, from discovery and research to alpha- and beta-testing. Thanks to them, our metrics set — which has always focused on engagement — is now further enriched, and we’ll have taken the first of many steps to ensure the richest set of engagement metrics available.
As media companies and publishers evolve in the digital era and grow more sophisticated in their usage and understanding of analytics data, real-time metrics require further context to be truly insightful about readership. It’s no longer enough for editors to ask “Where are we now?” and see the answer instantly; now, to make sound decisions and innovate, it’s necessary to also ask and learn “Where have we been?” to answer the question: “Where are we going?”
Real-time metrics require further context to be truly insightful about readership.
“It’s about assessing impact,” says Josh Schwartz, Chief of Product, Engineering, and Data Science. “In the end, how you quantify how a story lives its best life is by looking at the sum of the actions taken.”
As metrics, pageviews and uniques are commonly associated with reach and scale, and evaluated conversely from metrics that are tied more firmly to engagement, like recirculation and engaged time. At Chartbeat, we see engagement- and reach-based metrics as complementary. Together, they provide a more holistic understanding of an audience’s media consumption than either type alone.
At Chartbeat, we see engagement- and reach-based metrics as complementary.
Because of this, we’ve long sought to present multiple metrics side-by-side. For example, in the Real-Time Dashboard, you’ll see Concurrents, Average Engaged Time, and Recirculation, each telling a different part of the story. Pageviews and Uniques will each tell another.
Enhancing these stories is the new functionality of a configurable Top Pages, which enables the module to serve as a set of lenses that facilitate the sharing of insights and data between users and their teams. The metric toggles we’ve added are just the beginning: as we build upon this expanded foundation, you’ll see the end-to-end story of your content in a rich spectrum connecting real time and the history of your published stories.
You’ll see the end-to-end story of your content in a rich spectrum connecting real time and the history of your published stories.
Of course, the process of doing this won’t be uncomplicated. “Counting uniqueness in real-time is challenging,” says Paul Kiernan, back-end lead on the project. “It’s like that famous scene from Rain Man, where Dustin Hoffman counts how many toothpicks fall in an instant. We basically have to do the same thing on a waterfall of toothpicks. The volume of fallen toothpicks would be pageviews. Imagine they also have color and we have to count the distinct number of times we saw each individual one: that would be like counting uniques.”
The road ahead won’t be simple. Knitting real-time immediacy and historical relevance, while ensuring alignment with the needs of a diverse global user base, is a challenge. But we’ve counted our toothpicks, and working with our users, we’ll forge on to continue innovating on the core of what makes Chartbeat unique. (Pun intended.)
— Edited by Nalini Edwin, with contributions from Ani Shahinyan, Burton DeWilde, Chris Breaux, Josh Schwartz, and Paul Kiernan.